Welcome Home

Friday, November 7

11-7By Flo McDonald of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus. …Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

—Romans 15:5, 7 NRSV

Opportunities to live in different areas of the USA blessed our family. I attended classes for young mothers on ways to respond to the needs of growing children when it is necessary to relocate. I am grateful for the instructions received. In addition, I learned it was possible to make the transitions without too much trauma.

One idea was to make the move an adventure and have fun. We learned about the environment and visited places of interest in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Missouri. My husband liked to travel back roads instead of staying on main highways. One day the family made a shopping trip to Phoenix, Arizona. On the way home, the road on which we traveled ran out—it was unfinished!

We had prepared for the trip, or so I thought. The day was hot, and our car did not have air-conditioning. Concern for my family caused me to forget about myself. I assured them I was fine. The time came when I was not fine.

A service station was ahead. We stopped, and I did what experts told us not do in one of our classes. I rapidly drank liquids. Despite my stupidity, the Lord blessed me. I survived. But to this day I cannot stand the heat as well as I once did.

Another lesson learned was to make the new home a familiar place. Familiar objects and pictures helped, as did continuing familiar daily routines. The most help of all came in finding and attending the nearest Community of Christ congregation.

I remember those days, the friendships we made, and experiences of community. I realized that God had heard our prayers and had given our family strength and protection. I never would have known that we could handle so many moves so smoothly. Our faith families welcomed us. I trusted God to remain steadfast no matter where we lived.

Prayer for Peace Welcoming God, it is good to know when we must leave a home, that you will be there waiting for us in our new home. Thank you for our international community with whom we can live in any new place.

Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Reread the sentence, “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.” Make a list of the issues you feel mattered most to Christ. Make another list of issues that matter to the people in your congregation. Reflect on the similarities and differences. How can you help align the lists? Throughout the day, as issues arise, ask yourself, “Would this matter to Christ?”

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will welcome the newcomers and help them know they are “home.”

Advertisements

To Cry or to Scream?

Thursday, September 25

9-25By Glenn Johnson of Covina, California, USA

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free…”

—Luke 4:18 NRSV

Sometimes injustice is obvious and so close that we want to cry out and to shout to God or anyone who will listen. It was my first time to drive the car as our congregation delivered “Wednesday love lunches” to the hungry among our friends without homes. I had no idea what to expect.

We drove behind a gas station, and Scott handed a sack lunch and a water bottle to David, a man in his 70s. He was in a wheelchair, his neck in a brace, both legs missing. How could it be that a man in this condition lived behind a gas station? I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream.

Then a man pushing a shopping cart slowly approached me on the driver’s side. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m kind of slow,” he said. And then I saw he had only one leg and needed the shopping cart for support. Still bewildered, I handed him his lunch, and Scott directed me to our next stop.

Our 36 lunches were not enough to meet the needs we saw that day. Two people living without homes in our community had died just the week before.

Let us open our eyes to see the hidden injustices around us this day, and let us cry out that we might be mediators of God’s peace.

Prayer for Peace O God of justice, give us strength to serve and courage to cry out against injustices we see. Hear our prayers and bring us closer to the source of all peace so we might be voices for the afflicted.

Spiritual Practice: Voices of God What is the voice of God saying to us? Do we hear the whispers of God’s longing for shalom, God’s dream of beauty and wholeness for all creation? Do we hear the “voice” of God calling through faces and eyes, in the sounds of suffering and joy, in scripture and sacred word, in tears and laughter, in silence and noise?

Spend a few moments reflecting on when and how God’s voice speaks to you. When did you first feel called to join God in the pursuit of peace and justice? How does that call to shalom continue to come to you through the many “voices” of God?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will raise my voice as well as my eyebrows when I see injustice.

The Fish Could Not Speak

Tuesday, September 16

Dee River during an acid flow from Mt Morgan historic mine Photo by Corinne Unger

Dee River during an acid flow from Mt Morgan historic mine
Photo by Corinne Unger

By Corinne Unger of Chapel Hill, Queensland, Australia

The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.

—Doctrine and Covenants 163:4b

Nearly 40 kilometers of the Dee River was dead. Heavy rain caused acid runoff from the weathered waste rock at the old gold and copper mines. Fish floated slowly downstream like fallen leaves. Their lifeless white underbellies glistened in the sun.

I met with Jack, a Queensland fruit farmer, at the riverbank. He explained the frequency of these flows. There was a sense of acceptance about this fate. After all, it had happened many times over the preceding century.

I recently had taken over managing this abandoned mine for the government. I wondered why the media were silent, why the local government representatives remained aloof. The fish could not speak; the vegetation could not protest. While this small community was doing its best to raise awareness, few others cared.

I knew it was up to me to give voice to this issue. It needed my knowledge and expertise. I would need to develop a team and a plan to support these people in their efforts to bring life back to this river. I needed hope and courage, for without them I could not complete the task.

Sometimes in life, we need to steel ourselves with faith if we are to fulfill our goals. In Christ we find a strong example—someone prepared to take on a challenge to win hearts and minds and bring about change.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us protect your delicate web of life. Help us relieve the Earth of human greed and conflict. Help us share peace in place of power.

Spiritual Practice: Caring for God’s Sacred Creation Choose a way to notice, give thanks, and care for God’s sacred creation. Prayerfully consider one of the following practices or create your own. Walk in nature with a spirit of gratitude. Look and listen for God in all creation. Write or pray a psalm of praise for the Earth’s beauty or offer a prayer of healing and blessing for its wounds.

Learn about and engage in an act of Earth-keeping such as recycling, simple living, or fasting from over-consumption of resources. Notice the diversity of the planet’s creatures and be gentle to plants, animals, trees, and people! Fall in love with the vast, intricate wonder of God’s creation and give thanks.

Peace Covenant Today, God, besides reducing my own harmful footprints on your creation, I will take action to reveal industrial and commercial contamination.

God is Among US

Sunday, September 7

9-7aBy Janné Grover of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

—Matthew 18:20 NRSV

Community is complicated and amazing. It can be a source of great healing and blessing, nurture and support. It also can be a source of tension and angst, hurt feelings and disagreements.

As members of the family of God, we belong to and are responsible for one another. It is true that we often hurt, and are hurt by, those with whom we feel closest. What is amazing about true and sacred community is not the absence of conflict and pain, but how we engage with one another to address and resolve such issues.

If Christ is truly among us, then we find ourselves living the sometimes-difficult disciple practice of shared experiences in community. In Christian community we risk relationships with people who differ from us in many ways. Celebrating and learning from the differences frees us from isolation and individualism to joy and Blessings of Community.

I grew up feeling I had to be perfect. My parents seemed perfect, and the outward appearance of our family seemed perfect. I was imperfect. What I have come to learn is true family community is not about being perfect, but loving one another despite our imperfections.

Such is the case in any community, where two or three gather in the name of Christ. We do not have to put on masks of perfection to be part of community. We need to be vulnerable to grace by being vulnerable to one another and by committing to love one another in and through the reality of true community.

Prayer for Peace Ever-present God, we call for you when we are burdened. Forgive us for not trusting that you already are with us. May we be aware you are near and share the peace of your presence.

Spiritual Practice: Time with God Sit quietly and let your breathing become calm and deep. Ask God’s Spirit to rest on you. See or sense the Spirit anointing you in the form of light or other images that might come. Ask to be made aware of God’s love. Listen to the ways in which God wants to flow from your heart.

Peace Covenant Today, God, when I am among community, I will be with you.

Bikers Are Cool!

Wednesday, September 3

Photo by Art Smith

Photo by Art Smith

By Art Smith, Council of Twelve Apostles

Hear, O my people of the church, I am Jesus Christ of whom you have sung and testified and in whose name you pray. I am the spirit of love and peace which is in the world and yet not known by the world.

—Doctrine and Covenants 157:11

An unexpected ministry has ridden into town in Santiago, Chile. Not long ago, during a trip to Santiago, Gustavo, our church planter there, was selling his motorcycle to raise a little extra cash while citing the dangers inherent in riding.

Of course, now he’s riding again.

Society’s judgment plagues bikers in many places. But when that first biker showed up, welcomed by Community of Christ in Santiago, it wasn’t long until others followed. There is so much power in open-minded acceptance of others—in celebrating the Worth of All Persons.

Community of Christ now sponsors its own biker club. Members call themselves the Centuriones de Cristo. They wear a round church seal patch on the front of their leather jackets and their own distinct patch on their backs. Those shields and swords remind us of Paul’s challenge to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6). There’s nothing violent about these bikers.

On the Saturday of my visit, our biker club had banded with other similar-minded clubs to help a single mom and her kids. Everyone rode in a caravan to the town where this family lived, about 100 kilometers outside Santiago. They brought a new bed, new shoes, and food.

As their worth had been affirmed, so did the bikers affirm the worth of another. In the spirit of love and peace, the world is coming to know them.

Prayer for Peace God of bikers and those not known by the world, open our minds and hearts. Help us see past the leather jackets, the piercings, the tattoos, or anything that may seem different from us. May we see and know people as you see and know them.

Spiritual Practice: Honoring the Worth of All Persons Read Psalm 139:13–18. After each reading sit quietly and let the words sink deeply into your mind, heart, and body. What thoughts and feelings do you have about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”?

Sense the intimate knowledge and love God has for you and everyone. Be aware of the sacred worth of each person. Weep with God over the soul-wounding forces and events that rob people of dignity and worth. How does God invite you to notice, protect, heal, and affirm the spiritual identity of all God’s beloved people today? Pray for God’s compassion.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will welcome the unfamiliar and discover Christ anew.

Threaded Together

Saturday, July 26

Photo from HealthEd Connect

Photo from HealthEd Connect

By Sherri Kirkpatrick of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, USA

You have been given the principles of generosity, rightly interpreted for a new time. …look also beyond your walls to the far-flung places where the church must go. Each disciple needs a spiritual home. You are called to build that home and care for it, but also to share equally in the outreaching ministries of the church. In that way the gospel may be sent to other souls also yearning for a spiritual resting place.

—Doctrine and Covenants 162:7c–d

Cherry Newcom challenged the Kafwa health workers in Zambia to make 1,000 string bracelets for the campers at SPECTACULAR, also known as SPEC. It is a sports and leadership camp on the Graceland University campus in Lamoni, Iowa. Cherry got her wish!

I received 1,092 bracelets of every color imaginable, ready to deliver. Some people even stayed up late on the last night to reach the last-minute quota of bracelets.

The bracelets are beautiful, and all have one or two handmade paper beads threaded into the design. When they ran out of thread, the Kafwa bought colorful yarn and kept making bracelets! It was a great example of can-do spirit! Everyone in Africa is used to substituting and making do with what they have. They give what they can.

The SPEC campers understood the efforts to thread together the Zambians across the world with the people of many cultures at the camp. It was a great way to share the spirit of peace.

We set a goal to raise $3,000 to build a cook shack for the volunteer school cooks. In true SPECTACULAR fashion, we raised nearly $5,000.

Prayer for Peace God within us, God of the far-flung places, help us accept and encourage the efforts of all those who wish to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: The International Community Find (or imagine) a globe or map of the world. Look at all the nations, and find a country other than your own. Notice the geographic distance between your homeland and this one. Picture a person living there. Pray for this person. Sense God’s love connecting you just as the oceans connect the continents. Thank God for the spiritual connection you have with all of God’s people around the globe. Ask a blessing on the church as a community sharing Christ’s peace, drawing all into the family of God.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will support the outreach ministries of the church.

Gather ’Round the Dogwood

Monday, July 21

7-21By Peggy Michael of Cantonment, Florida, USA

Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

—John 15:4–5, 7 NRSV

A small pile of tree trimmings outside the main lodge became a parable. Not wanting a single harbinger of spring to go to waste, the campground manager gathered a huge bouquet of blossoming dogwood branches for the dining room. We drank in their beauty each time we passed the table.

Early in the week we gathered there for an evening meal. As we did, a disturbing phone call told us of a terrible car accident. The parents were in line with us, and we shared their concern. The accident seriously injured several members of their family, including small children. This was all the information we had at the moment.

Each one in the room formed a circle of support as we petitioned God to bless the injured parents, grandparents, and small children. Love and concern flowed from heart to heart, and tears wet our cheeks. We waited for more information.

In the hours ahead, encouraging news trickled in. Though the injuries were serious, none was life-threatening. In time, each one would recover. Hope and assurance of God’s love permeated the entire reunion. With one heart and one mind we celebrated the blessings and mercy of God to us.

Together we clung to the giver of life with all of our might, mind, and strength. Like the broken dogwood branches revived in the fresh water, the living water of Jesus Christ restored us.

Prayer for Peace Creator God, help us center our being in the path beside the Living Water. Let it flow over us as we accept the mission to share Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: Vessel for Living Water Imagine a vessel at the center of your being (a clay jar, a crystal vase, a metal bucket, or other container). Imagine drawing something from the bucket to share with someone, but as you reach inside you find only a tiny pool of stagnant liquid. You are thirsty, dry, empty. Then something clear and cool begins to pour over you. It splashes and tumbles into the vessel, filling it to the brim. The living water of Christ pours on and in you. Your vessel fills and runs over, blessing your body and soul. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving and commitment to share living water with others.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will share from the overflow of the Living Water.

A Time to Laugh…Immediately!

Saturday, July 19

7-19By Lu Mountenay of Independence, Missouri, USA

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: …a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; …a time to weep, and a time to laugh…

—Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 4 NRSV

Tom observes: “The basement needs sweeping.” Time passes.

Tom makes a responsible choice: “I’ll sweep the basement…soon.” Time passes.

Tom clarifies: “I’ll sweep the basement Saturday.” Saturday arrives.

Tom redefines his clarification: “I’ll sweep the basement after the president’s speech.”

Tom states: “I’m going to sweep the basement NOW.” Lu: “Go for it.” Minutes pass.

Tom asks: “Hey Lu, can you get me some water? I’m downstairs sweeping!”

Lu: “Oh, is that where you are? I was wondering.”

Tom retorts: “I told you, I’m downstairs sweeping the basement!”

Lu: “Oh, I must not have heard you the first 10 times you said it.” The evening passes.

Tom announces from the bottom of the stairs: “Well, the basement is all swept and clean. You can come down and see if you want. Or maybe not…I don’t want you to fall down the stairs. The stairs are swept and clean though. You can just stand at the top and look down.”

Lu confirms: “Yep, the stairs look clean to me.”

Tom smiles: “I did it for you.” Lu praises: “Good job!”

God charges us with sharing the “good news.” This is something Tom does not put off. When someone needs comfort, help, or words of assurance, Tom drops everything, and is there to share immediately! The word “immediately” appears 21 times in Mark’s Gospel. Most of the time it is Christ saying when his disciples should act, or it is the results of Christ’s ministry—“immediately he regained his sight.”

Christ’s ministry happened fast—he didn’t have much time. How much time do we have left to share the good news?

Tom emerges from the basement, wiping the sweat from his brow, carrying a dustpan overflowing with basement debris. He lets the debris slide into the trash. As the dustpan hovers over the trash, Tom makes another keen observation: “The trash needs emptying.” Time passes…

P.S. Tom insists on this epilogue: “Lu exaggerates!”

Lu: “Not much.”

Prayer for Peace God of laughter and tears, help us laugh at ourselves when it helps us make peace.

Spiritual Practice: Making Responsible Choices Prayerfully seek God’s guidance in your choices. Discernment invites us to orient our lives toward God and God’s vision for us and creation. Begin by reviewing the responsibilities and opportunities in the day before you. Take these choices into prayer, asking God for wisdom and insight about what matters most.

Peace Covenant God, I will do today what I might put off until tomorrow (or Saturday).

Committed Community

Friday, June 27

Photo of  Scott Blair

Photo of
Scott Blair

By Scott Blair of Independence, Missouri, USA

This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said…Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call)…So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.

—Romans 9:8–9, 11–12, 16 V

When I was 15 I joined Community of Christ. Since then, I’ve been going to family camps (reunion), and I love it. Even though I go only once a year, this camp helps shape me into someone who is passionate about discipleship. The people at these camps have encouraged me, taught me, guided me, loved me, held me accountable. Now they work beside me in ministry. They have committed to me, and I am committed to them.

This year the camp experience was even more significant. My wife and I recently had our first child, and we took her to camp with us! She was only 6 weeks old, but we could not imagine not going to camp or not bringing her with us. It was a little more work than usual on our part, but well worth it. Everyone fell in love with our little girl. We could see the people around us commit to our child.

We know there will be a time when our little girl won’t be so little. She’ll lean on others for advice and guidance. I know the same community that has helped shape me since I was 15 can greatly affect her life. No longer is camp just about hanging out with friends, going to campfires, and doing the practices that fill my spiritual needs. It’s now about keeping a little girl involved in a community of people that can help her become a self-sufficient woman with a sense of value and self-worth.

I now understand the importance of my church family on a new level. I hope the members understand how much my family needs them, as I now understand how much they need me. We commit to Christ and his faithful community. It’s one of the most sacred actions we can take as individual disciples and as a church. May you have a deeper understanding of your role in your sacred community, and commit to your divine call.

Prayer for Peace Covenant God, we are at the mercy of your grace and take comfort in your compassion. May we commit to a compassionate response for the community we share.

Spiritual Practice: Listening to Children Sit in your quiet place and center your heart and mind on God’s presence. Spend several minutes asking God to bring into your awareness the names and images of children in your life. You may see their faces or hear their voices as you receive these impressions. Listen deeply to the unique gifts and needs of the children who come to mind. Offer a prayer of blessing for each child and the needs you sense. If you feel led, you also may want to write a note or card and give a message of affirmation and love to each child.

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will commit to the spiritual welfare of the children of my community.

Flood of Community Response

Monday, May 26

5-26By Evelyn Spence of Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

“Humble yourselves and continue in prayer to him; cry to him when you are in your fields, and over all your flocks; cry to him in your houses, and over all your household, morning, midday, and evening…And when you do not cry to the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer to him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.”

—Alma 16:219, 222

Our city did not experience an EF5 tornado, a hurricane, or a tsunami. Instead, we fought record-high Missouri River water. Devastating floods hit north and south of our home. Our interstate highway flooded and closed, as did other major roads. For an extended time, some people traveled long detours to get to work.

Floods cause more damage when water stays for a month or six weeks. This wasn’t just a flash flood. The high water level for such a long time devastated the people affected. We knew some, and our hearts broke for them.

In Council Bluffs, a pall settled over us as the danger became imminent. At least half of the city is in a floodplain. Residents sandbagged businesses and houses. The city officials enlisted civilians and the National Guard to help patrol the many miles of levee next to the river and two large drainage creeks. They placed pumps at danger points to send seeping water back into the river.

In the lowest area of our town, seeping water caused basements to collapse, making houses unlivable. Recreation trails closed because they were atop levees. The lakes, too, were unusually high and could not support normal water activities.

A different aura permeated the area and people on higher land. We each knew people affected. This was just one place of many in the world suffering the effects of natural disasters. When families lose everything, the loss not only devastates the families, but everyone feels the devastation with them.

I cannot imagine how many prayers were offered. Bearing one another’s burdens, we volunteered at sandbagging efforts and distributed supplies. The community prayed with faith over our households, and we pulled together.

Prayer for Peace Steadfast God, we humbly pray for the families and homes of neighbors and strangers who suffer loss. We know you weep with them and send your Spirit of peace to be with them.

Spiritual Practice: Offering Blessings of Community Receive and share Blessings of Community. Begin with a prayer of gratitude for the relationships in your life. What blessings flow to you from these circles? How have you felt the love of the community?

Peace Covenant Today, God, I will sandbag to hold off danger. If I can’t sandbag, I will feed the sandbaggers. If I can’t bring food, I will pray for them.